A big excerpt from this article:
When I was about 5, Mom took me with her to visit our next-door neighbor, Miss Jane. While at Miss Jane’s home, I helped myself to a fistful of rubber bands that she kept around a doorknob in her kitchen. Mom discovered my pilfered booty only after we returned to our house. She grabbed my arm, pulled me back to Miss Jane’s and made me return the rubber bands and apologize for stealing. And that’s what Mom called it: stealing.
I explained that I took only lowly rubber bands. "It doesn’t matter, Donald!" she rightly replied. "Stealing is stealing. And you stole. I’m ashamed of you."
To this day, I remember that incident vividly. I remember being ashamed of myself.
Do not picture my mom as being a stern disciplinarian. While she was tireless in dealing with us when we misbehaved, my mom’s demeanor was always gentle and loving. Chiefly through the way she lived each day of her life, Mom made us want to be good.
Both my mother and father were born into working-class families, and Mom and Dad were working-class until they retired — Mom from clerking in a hardware store, Dad from fitting pipes in a shipyard. Not once did I hear either of them express as much as a whiff of resentment that their incomes were below average.
It simply did not occur to them to envy wealthier families or to suppose that other persons’ wealth was extracted from our family’s hide. Whenever my siblings or I complained about the poor quality of our family’s car or the cramped conditions of our home, Mom and Dad always said, "Be grateful for what we have and work hard so that you can have more when you grow up."
Note the optimism in this reply. Work hard and you’ll achieve. As politically incorrect as it is to affirm, this statement is true.
Also politically incorrect was my parents’ visceral hostility to victimhood. I recall many times as a child blaming others for my misfortunes — say, for my poor grades in school — and each time my parents insisting that the only person to blame was myself. How many times back then did I sulk in anger at my parents’ refusal to indulge my excuses? And how many times today do I thank them for those refusals?
My father and mother raised four children to be responsible, honest, nonenvious and hardworking adults. To my mom’s memory — and to the countless other mothers and fathers in our world who’ve done and do the same — I give my most heartfelt thanks.
Mom, you lived your life well. Very well indeed.